Clemens to go on short rest against Braves

HOUSTON -- At 42, Roger Clemens is ready to pitch on three days' rest with a chance to win a playoff series for the Houston Astros.

After all, playing in the postseason with his hometown team is one of the primary reasons he came out of his brief retirement.

"Maybe if I was 24, I'd worry about it. But I'm the elder statesman, so use me," Clemens said Saturday, a day before his scheduled start in Game 4 of the NL Division Series against Atlanta. "I'm here, I need to be out there and working. I'm not worried about my arm, I'm not worried about my body."

Houston, which has never won a postseason series, has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series after an 8-5 win Saturday.

Clemens won Game 1 of the series Wednesday at Atlanta. He will pitch on short rest for the first time this season and only the fourth time in 10 years.

Showing the effects of a stomach virus that kept him from making his last start of the regular season -- but also put him in position to pitch Game 1 -- the Rocket walked six, his most since 1998. But he allowed just two earned runs in seven innings of Houston's 9-3 win.

Manager Phil Garner said going with Clemens for Game 4 wasn't a difficult decision.

"The final straw that weighed it toward Roger is the fact that he's been a fantastic pitcher," Garner said. "I think you have to go with one of the best pitchers in the game today and in the last decade. You have to let him have the ball."

Plus, it sets up 20-game winner Roy Oswalt to come back for Game 5 on Monday, if needed.

Clemens said he felt good after throwing Friday.

"My body, I don't feel like I have any discomfort at all," Clemens said. "You get in a playoff situation with the crowd we're going to have here, it will substitute for anything that I'm lacking, I'm sure."

When the teams were introduced prior to Game 3, Clemens got one of the loudest ovations even though he wasn't pitching.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said facing Clemens on short rest won't change the offensive strategy for his hitters.

"They're going to take the same approach they did last time," Cox said. "We did a good job of getting on base. We just didn't do a very good job of getting them in. Roger really, when he got in trouble, he just got out of it easily."

Instead of going with Game 1 starter Jaret Wright, the Braves will start well-rested Russ Ortiz (15-9, 4.13 ERA) on Sunday. Ortiz hasn't pitched since Sept. 29.

"It's like (Greg) Maddux, when I asked him that question once. He had over 10 days. He said, 'Bobby, I'm not going to forget how to pitch,'" Cox said.

Before winning his last start, Ortiz was 1-3 his previous nine and didn't make it out of the third inning in two September starts. But Cox said Ortiz looked good in his side session Friday.

"Taking that out to the game and being consistent is a trick for every pitcher," Ortiz said. "But feeling good in the bullpen is obviously a big key."